Tuesday, September 26, 2006

St. Isaiah the Solitary 8

St. Isaiah the Solitary, On Guarding the Intellect, Twenty-Seven Texts

8. If your intellect is freed from all hope in things visible, this is a sign that sin has died in you.

From the previous text, which advises a training exercise of closing the “gates of the soul,” we now have a brief discussion of why this is good and important.

This shows us what we heard before, in a broader sense. We were told in the last text to close attention to the senses to prevent the intellect not to be lured astray, until it has learned that it is not dominated by anything, and then a process of integration and wholeness can take root.

Now there is a broader description here, which undergirds and licenses that strategy. The false view would be that the world and sensible things are evil and we must remain pure from them. Here the reason given is quite different. It is that we must not hope in the things of the world. The reason for the sensory restraint advised in the previous text is here explained more fully: we will be given experience in recognizing that the things of this world are not necessary to us.

And once we see that we may stop hoping in them. This is then a sign that sin has died in us. But once more, we are thrust back on the anti-stoic point that this does not depend on us. We might have thought, “oh, I stop hoping in things visible, and that will make sin go away.” No. It is a sign that sin has died, but not the cause. The cause is something quite different: the redemption earned by Christ, and received through grace.

Index of Comments on the Philokalia

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